Embracing Shabbat in the Wake of a Massacre

Oct. 15 2020

When eleven Jews were murdered on a Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, Abby Schachter—a Pittsburgh resident, albeit a regular at a different congregation—found herself in a taxicab in Manhattan. Thereafter, she resolved to cease traveling by car, plane, or the like on the Sabbath. She writes of this decision:

Walking on Shabbat is just one way to mark a fault line. It is a means of delineating the sacred space of Shabbat as separate from the rest of the mundane week. The observance of Shabbat is filled with such separations and designations.

At first, changing behavior can be uncomfortable, and especially when it comes to religious observance, it can seem downright strange. I don’t think about walking in connection with the Tree of Life massacre anymore, if I ever did. Our Shabbat experience changed because of the shooting, but that does not mean it remains uppermost in my mind on any given Saturday.

Instead, not driving on Saturday has become as integral to my family’s experience as anything else we do to mark the separation from mundane weekday to holy Sabbath. It has also altered our community relationships, because we are invited more often to the homes of fellow congregants for lunch after services. Others have told us their door is open to us if we get caught in the rain walking home or need a glass of water or to rest. On some occasions, we’ve stayed longer at synagogue to enjoy an afternoon program or to visit with our friends. When the weather has been particularly forbidding, we’ve stayed home entirely and spent time together as a family.

One of the more beautiful aspects of Judaism is how it offers us the possibility of meaningful change. Walking on Shabbat is another step on the road to a deeper and richer Jewish life.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Shabbat, Synagogue

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy